If you’re thinking about purchasing a smart speaker, you might be going back and forth about which one to buy. We hear you. With all the news and info you hear about the two most popular voice assistants, Alexa and Google Assistant, it’s hard to know which one to pick. Google’s Home speaker has been out since 2016, and despite it not being available on Google’s website anymore, it serves both as an intelligent virtual assistant and a great music player. It’s worth mentioning that Google released its spiritual successor in the Nest Audio most recently.
Its biggest rival is the Amazon Echo, which is now in its
. Knowing how they’re similar and how they are different can help you make a well-informed purchase. Which smart speaker is right for you? Here’s a breakdown of cost, what the two voice assistants can do, what they look like, and their compatibility with smart home devices.
The original Google Home is shaped like a cylinder, and it looks a little bit like a dehumidifier. It sits 5.6 inches tall, and it’s 3.79 inches in diameter. It has a white top and a slate-gray fabric bottom.
You can get special bases for the speaker that changes the gray to a more appealing color for $20. These bases are available in carbon, pink, or copper metal.
Additionally, you can get the Google Home Max, Hub, or Google Home Mini. The Google Home Max and the Home Mini are larger and smaller, respectively, than the original Google Home model. The
is more expensive and is built for sound, while the
is a miniature, cheaper version of the original Google Home.
Google rebranded the Google Home Hub as the Nest Hub. The
has a 7-inch touchscreen display. The screen allows you to do things like watch videos, view photos, control your smart home via touchscreen, and view who’s at your door when you have a video doorbell that works with the Hub — like the Nest Hello.
Google also released the Nest Hub Max. It functions exactly like its sibling but offers a few more features that make it the ultimate smart display — a larger 10-inch display for better media consumption, richer sound performance, and a built-in camera that allows for two-way video calls and peace-of-mind home security.
The newest addition to the Google speaker family is the Google Nest Mini (second generation). It is faster than the first generation, inexpensive, made from recycled materials, and adjusts sound based on background noise. It also comes in four different color choices: chalk, charcoal, coral, and sky. Google is also expected to release a new Nest Audio smart speaker in the coming days.
The original Echo is now in its fourth generation. A major redesign brings a new spherical shape, with three different color options — charcoal, twilight blue, and glacier white. The speaker measures in at 5.2 inches tall and 5.7 inches wide.
In addition to the regular Echo, you can buy several other types of Echo devices, depending on your needs. The
is a mini version of the Echo. On its fourth generation, the new Dot gets the spherical treatment, too. The speaker is also smaller and cheaper than the regular Echo, so it’s a lower-tier version in terms of its tech specs.
The Echo Show is on its third generation, featuring the all-new
. The latest Echo Show boasts a bigger, adaptive display that stays in view when you’re chatting with Alexa, a brushless motor for quiet operation, and a Netflix app (finally!). The Echo Spot is a smaller, alarm clock-style device with a screen.
Google Home responds to touch, and it has LED lights that activate while in use. Conversely, instead of having lights along the top, the Echo has a light ring around the base. In terms of appearance, the Google Home is a little bit taller than the Echo (5.6 inches vs. 5.2 inches).
The Amazon Echo (4th Gen) is available to pre-order for $100. The speaker’s official release date is October 22, 2020. Meanwhile, the Google Home costs $100 wherever it’s sold.
Alexa is the virtual assistant associated with the Amazon Echo. You can change the voice to different accents or languages. Additionally, you can ask Alexa to control your connected smart devices, ask for the weather for the weekend, set timers, play games, set reminders, set a dinner bell, and so much more. Better yet, the newest
also doubles as a Zigbee hub.
As for the Google Home, its virtual assistant is, well, the Google Assistant — leaving no doubts about its purpose for users. One interesting thing about the Google Assistant is that you can change the voice to male, as well as pick a different language. Google Assistant is multilingual, meaning that you can speak more than one language in the home and it will understand. You can even use interpreter mode and have Google Assistant act as a real-time translator. Plus, Google consistently adds more features to Google Assistant.
Amazon announced the Skill Blueprints portal as an option for people to build their own skills. So, not only can you add professional skills to your Alexa device, but you can also create and publish skills to the Alexa Skills Store.
It’s worth keeping in mind, too, that both the Amazon Echo and Google Home allow setting up routines composed of multiple actions triggered by a single command or condition. For example, you can make your smart lights turn on and hear a news broadcast at the same time each day to wake you up.
Want to make phone calls with your smart speaker? That’s possible on both devices, but the Echo Show and Spot are better for video calling since the Google Home Hub lacks a camera, and the Nest Hub Max has a higher entry price.
Want to ask Alexa multiple questions? She lets users ask questions one after another as long as they’re within about five seconds of each other. But, they have to ask one question, wait for an answer, and so on.
The Google Home has many features as well, with new ones coming out every day. You don’t have to add skills to Google Assistant in the same manner as you do with Alexa though.
Google Home is also capable of a “multiple actions” feature that allows people to ask more than one question at once. For example, you could say, “OK, Google, what time is it, and what’s the weather forecast?” Alexa doesn’t have this capability.
One interesting Google Assistant feature is Google Duplex, which can make calls on your behalf. This makes tasks like making a dinner reservation or buying movie tickets easier than ever. Duplex is currently live in every U.S. state except Kentucky and Louisiana.
A study that investigated how the Google Home and Amazon Echo do while answering questions found that the Google Assistant answered more correctly and made more attempts to respond to questions than Alexa. So, for now, the Amazon Echo offers more functionality overall. But, if it’s specific capabilities you want, Google Home is a wise choice.
Smart home device compatibility
When trying to compare these two leading smart speakers, you might wonder whether you can use the gadgets to control your smart thermostat or intelligent light bulbs, for example. These days, many smart home devices are compatible with both Alexa and Google Assistant, although if you’re unsure you can click on the links below to see if the gadget in question is on the list of compatible devices.
Google Home supports more than 30,000 products, which make its compatibility level seem substantially less. It’s worth noting, though, that in January 2018, the Google Assistant was only compatible with 1,500 devices. That jump indicates smart home compatibility is an area of focus and desired growth for Google. Here’s our list of some of the best compatible devices.
What’s the verdict?
Buying a smart speaker and choosing the best one for you isn’t always straightforward, and each of these speakers has its merits. At the moment, it seems as though the Amazon Echo continues to be the better option. It is compatible with more smart home devices, uses an adaptive audio system for bigger sound, and can control your Zigbee gear. Plus, there are more types of Echo devices to choose from.
We will say that the Google Home and the voice assistant inside does seem smarter than Alexa. We’ll continue to update this post as more features and capabilities for both devices are announced. For now, Echo is still leading the way, especially for audiophiles who crave superior sound.